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1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
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New Blood - First Reaction
2003-07-14 08:25
by Jon Weisman

I am irrationally jazzed about Rickey.

That the 44-year-old Hall-of-Famer-to-be is a no-lose pickup for the Dodgers has been discussed here at length. (Here and here, for example.) Henderson may struggle to hit .200, but he will walk, and he will spark. Think about this: the man will be perhaps the greatest offensive player ever to wear a Dodger uniform (challenging Frank Robinson, among others, for that award). No, he's not that player on the field any more, but he's not Rafael Landestoy, either.

And does anyone love the game more than Rickey does? He may not win the Dodgers a playoff berth, but he adds juice - and for the major-league minimum salary. Truly one of the most exciting Dodger acquisitions in my memory - no matter what he does.

Jeromy Burnitz - well, let's say at a minimum, my excitement is a little more adulterated. Here are some quick thoughts. I'm hoping Rob Neyer, Aaron Gleeman or one of the other smart guys out there will come through with some hardcore analysis of the trade, but until then, here are the initial reactions inside Weismandom.

1. Initial reaction: Ugh. That was based on the misery of his 2002 season, in which he OPSed .668 for the New York Mets.

2. Subsequent reaction: Hmm. Based on the fact that Burnitz has turned it around this year. No, he hasn't made the Mets a contender, but he has OPSed .925, with 18 home runs - eight more than any Dodger has in 2003. Pretty impressive turnaround at age 34.

3. EQA, courtesy of Baseball Prospectus: .300. That's higher than every Dodger except slugging Guillermo Mota (.353). Paul Lo Duca leads the Dodgers at .285. Brian Jordan is second at .282. Shawn Green is down at .262 - near the major league average. If Burnitz keeps it above .300, that would be enough to make a difference.

4. Yep, he really does spell it "Jeromy."

5. Who did the Dodgers give up? Three guys, 23 or younger, that might be major leaguers in 2005 or 2006, but none with stardom ensured. Two of them are pitchers, but even though John Wiebe quickly e-mailed me to say that both are striking out nearly a man per inning, I think he would agree that none projects as a frontline starter. Meanwhile, Victor Diaz is a decent-hitting second baseman, perhaps a better prospect than Joe Thurston, but I don't know if you can go much further. Put simply, in recent years, Los Angeles has traded better prospects than this.

6. The Dodgers only have to pay $2 million of Burnitz's salary, and he'll be a free agent at the end of the season, which means they might get at least one draft pick in compensation. (I'm a little hazy on the current state of those rules - feel free to write me with a clarification.)

7. Burnitz doesn't have the upside of a Brian Giles, or even an Aubrey Huff, but the Dodgers didn't have to give up Odalis Perez to get him. (Robert Tagorda compares Burnitz to Giles at Priorities and Frivolities, also noting Burnitz's poor performance historically at Dodger Stadium.) Is Perez + Burnitz > Giles? Maybe not, but you can make the case.

8. Burnitz has crushed right-handed pitching this season - thank God the Dodgers attended to that need. Burnitz's OPS vs. RHP in 2003: 1.001.

9. Against lefties, he is at .774, which isn't bad by Dodger standards. However, those are good days to make sure Mike Kinkade - or Henderson - is in the lineup. (See #12.)

10. Burnitz also has a dramatic home-road OPS split: .718 at home, 1.136 on the road.

11. Major downside #1: Burnitz doesn't walk anymore. Although he drew 99 walks in 2000, his totals have declined to 80 in 2001, 58 in 2002 and only 21 in 2003. Burnitz was out for a month (April 22 - May 23) after a pitch broke a bone in his left hand, that's still not a lot of walks for a team that needs them. His OBP, .344, is nothing spectacular.

12. Major downside #2: his defense. Burnitz has become a liability in the outfield - and until Dave Roberts returns, might even be asked to play some center. A defense of Green in right, Burnitz in center and Lo Duca/Kinkade/Henderson? Man, the Dodgers had better keep the ball on the ground. Another reason to sit Burnitz against lefties.

13. Before Roberts or Fred McGriff come back, the Dodgers still don't have a lot of lineup flexibility against righties. On days that Henderson does not play, you might still see Cesar Izturis or Alex Cora up high, where they don't belong. But by August, perhaps you'll see something like this.

Roberts, CF Lo Duca, C Green, RF Burnitz, LF McGriff, 1B Beltre, 3B Cora, 2B Izturis, SS


Henderson, LF Roberts, CF Green, RF Lo Duca, C McGriff, 1B Beltre, 3B Cabrera, 2B Cora, SS

Even putting my excitement about Rickey's intangibles aside, I'm probably way too optimistic about him. He wouldn't help every team, but boy, I do think he helps the Dodgers. The Dodgers got an OBP guy and an HR guy, and still have the same pitching. I'm not usually very positive about midseason trades by the Dodgers, but I think they've found a balance between the needs of 2003 and the needs of 2005. Did they get enough for the three prospects they gave up? I don't know, but I think they're in the ballpark.

I can already feel the buzz coming when the season resumes Thursday. Never would have imagined that Rickey Henderson would someday be a Dodger. And never would have imagined that a guy like Jeromy Burnitz could actually help a team I'm rooting for by playing for it, as opposed to stiffing against it. But such is the state of the extremely strange Dodgers.

Answered and Asked

So it looks like hitting coach Jack Clark will be sticking around for a while. Fair enough.

But what was he getting at with these comments to Jason Reid in the Times today?

"Some of my frustrations were because of a lot of the ways things were handled personally with me, where I was told things were going to happen for me, and they never [did]," Clark said. "The reasons why? I never knew. All I knew was, I just never got phone calls returned. I never got answers for things, for what was going on, so I could make decisions in my own life.

"But Danny kind of opened up to me and explained some of the reasons; the health [problems] he was having in his family, and some different things he had going on from the move from Chicago. There was a lot of stuff I wasn't aware of. He came out and said he made mistakes and he learned. I actually felt bad after I got done talking to him, because there were so many things I didn't know. It gave you the ability to understand the plan a little bit more."

No follow-up explanation came from Reid, so I guess the Secret Story of Dan Evans will wait to be revealed another day. And maybe it should stay secret, for all I know. But if it is meant to be private, why would Clark tease Reid and Reid's readers like this?

Evans isn't returning phone calls because of some "things he had going on from the move from Chicago." That move was more than two years ago. Don't you find that strange?

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